Whether you’re dealing with too much perspiration under your riding jersey on a hot day or need an extra layer to keep warm on a winter ride, a base layer is a great option that every cyclist should consider buying.
But like many categories of cycling gear, there are a number of options on the market, which can make the buying process overwhelming and difficult.
Lucky for you, we’ve done plenty of research on the best layers for each season, helping you make a better-informed purchase.
A Quick Glance : Our Favorite Base Layers for All Seasons
Table of Contents
Summer Base Layers
Castelli Pro Issue Sleeveless Base Layer
The Castelli Pro Issue Sleeveless Base Layer is for the cyclist who needs an extra layer under their riding jersey, but doesn’t want to feel it on him or her for that ride.
This layer, made by the highly-respected Italian company, is extremely lightweight thanks to its polyester 3D mesh design. That material makes it great for moisture management and keeping your core at a comfortable temperature on your ride.
Let’s say you start a ride when it’s cooler outside. The base layer insulates your core and keeps you warm until you start sweating. At that point, it wicks away sweat to cool you off.
We really like how Castelli widened the collar on this updated base layer. It makes it fit much better under a standard jersey.
Craft Cool Mesh Superlight Base Layer
If you’re searching for a minimal layer that provides optimal airflow, you should check out the Craft Cool Mesh Superlight Base Layer.
Competitively priced, this ultra-lightweight layer is the perfect undergarment for your jersey. It includes a light amount of insulation just in case it’s a little cool on your ride. But if things heat up as you start pounding the hills, the mesh fabric does a great job of creating optimal airflow and cooling things down.
Some riders have said this layer can fit a little big, so if you’re between sizes, we recommend going with the smaller size. Make sure it’s not too tight-fitting, though.
Craft Cool sells this base layer in white or black.
Assos Skin Foil NS Base Layer
When it comes to breathability and an ability to wick away moisture, the Assos Skin Folk NS Base Layer is a great option for cyclists.
This sleeveless layer is made up using a blend of various yarns and compression materials to create this dynamic piece of cycling gear that adapts to your perspiration.
We think Assos nailed the sizing on this base layer. Many cyclists report the seamless construction fits very comfortably. The holes on this layer, though, could take some getting used to. They’re bigger and almost cheese grater-like. Once you’re used to it, it should do a great job of keeping you cool on your ride.
Assos’ layers run a little more expensive than the competition, but we feel it’s a quality product.
Autumn and Spring Base Layers
Gore Wear Thermo Base Layer
For rides in temperatures ranging from 40ºF to about 60ºF, the Gore Wear Thermo Base Layer is perfect for high-intensity cycling as it’s great in wicking away moisture and keeping you warm and dry.
For a long-sleeve layer, it’s priced extremely well. Many cyclists also report the company’s sizing is accurate.
The first thing you notice is how stretchy the material is, which allows it to insulate your arms and core for the duration of the ride. Flat-lock seams also do a great job of keeping the layer close to your skin.
Remember, this Gore Wear layer is designed for mild temperatures. Don’t expect to stay too warm when temperatures are around freezing.
Pearl Izumi Merino Base Layer
A stylish, but expensive, piece of cycling gear, the Pearl Izumi Merino Base Layer comes in a beautiful dark red or black color and is extremely comfortable.
The comfort is thanks to the high-end Merino fabric, which is much softer than straight-up polyester. Of course, that comfort and premium material also comes with a higher price tag.
This Pearl Izumi base layer does a great job of forming to your body, while also wicking away moisture to keep you dry on rides. We think the neck is a little wide on it, but that’s not a huge deal when you have a jersey on over it.
If this layer is too warm, Pearl Izumi does make the same version but in short sleeves.
Pearl Izumi Short Sleeve Merino Base Layer
Like it’s long-sleeve iteration, the Pearl Izumi Merino Base Layer with short sleeves is not only lightweight, but somehow manages to keep your core quite warm.
Again, that’s thanks to the premium Merino fabric that Pearl Izumi blends nicely with polyester to help with moisture management.
Interestingly enough, the short sleeve version is just as expensive as its long-sleeve counterpart. Merino fabric doesn’t come cheap, which is why you’ll need to figure out how to justify spending such a large sum on a lightweight, short-sleeve base layer.
It’s important to note that because Merino is a type of wool, this Pearl Izumi base layer could be a little itchy, especially if you have sensitive skin. Because of the blended polyester, most riders shouldn’t notice much of an itch, though.
Winter Base Layers
Assos Skinfoil Base Layer
As the warmest base layer in the company’s lineup, the Assos Skinfoil Base Layer is designed for cyclists who aren’t afraid to tackle the harshest of winter conditions.
Mostly made of polypropylene, the seamless construction of this layer does a great job at keeping you warm, but somehow also quite breathable. As you sweat, the moisture-wicking yarn does a great job at keeping you dry.
Yes, these winter base layers, including this Assos base layer, are considerably more expensive than lightweight options, but that’s the cost of keeping warm in more extreme conditions.
Sizing can be a bit odd with this layer, depending on the cyclist. Some have reported the core of the layer fits nicely, but the sleeves can be a tad short.
Castelli Prosecco Tech Base Layer
From Italy’s leading cycling brand, the Castelli Prosecco Tech Base Layer is competitively priced and is surprisingly lightweight for its ability to keep cyclists warm on winter rides.
Made of 100% polyester, the form-fitting layer is a great insulator, but its top attribute is its ability to wick away moisture. Staying dry on a ride is almost more important when it comes to keeping warm in freezing temperatures.
The Castelli Prosecco Tech Base Layer is actually designed for early winter training, but some hardcore cyclists say it performs well in temperatures under 30 degrees, depending on what type of workout you’re taking on for the day.
To ensure you don’t get too warm, Castelli used lighter fabric where your bib straps overlap.
Giordana Ceramic Base Layer
Base layers don’t have to be the prettiest piece of cycling gear you own because they are typically hidden from sight, but the Giordana Ceramic Base Layer is a work of art that also does a great job at keeping you warm and dry on winter rides.
This base layer is packed with insulation, but excels in moisture management, making it a great option for rides in sub-freezing temperatures, but also ones that approach 45 to 50ºF.
That range is thanks to the synthetic microfiber blend that is actually fused together with bio-ceramic crystals. That’s right, crystals. The folks at Giordana say the crystals reflect heat your body gives off in an effort to maintain a comfortable body temperature.
Base Layers Buying Guide & Tips
Many cyclists might think base layers are only geared toward keeping you warm on cold rides, but in reality, they’re almost more important when it comes to those super-hot days.
Yes, it provides an extra layer of insulation. But the materials used in base layers do a great job at wicking away moisture and keeping your body nice and dry.
Use this buyer’s guide to learn everything you need to know about cycling base layers.
Fit and Sizing
The fit and sizing of base layers can be a tricky thing, depending on how big or small you are. But first, we want to explain how the base layer should fit.
In a perfect world, a base layer is close to your skin, but also has some breathability. That’s for a couple of reasons.
One, it needs to feel comfortable under your jersey. And two, it needs to be able to do its job of keeping you warm and wicking away moisture.
The Craft Cool Mesh Superlight Base Layer, for instance, almost feels non-existent when sized correctly because it’s extremely lightweight. It does run a little large, though.
So, make sure to try on these layers and find one that’s slightly tight-fitting, but not overly constricting.
You’re also going to have three choices when it comes to sleeve length. Typically, longer sleeves for cooler temperatures, but that’s not always the case.
Here’s a breakdown of your options:
- Sleeveless base layers, like the Assos Skin Folk NS Base Layer, are designed for those hot summer rides. It wouldn’t be very helpful to wear something like this in the winter. No sleeves mean this layer is simply designed to wick away moisture from your core.
- Short Sleeves can be used in the summer, but are also great for those moderately chilly rides in the fall. A great example of this is the short-sleeve version of the Pearl Izumi Merino Base Layer. Because it’s made using Merino wool, it’s quite warm in your core. Some cyclists don’t want their arms getting that warm, though, especially if temperatures
- Long Sleeves, as expected, are typically designed for colder rides. But some options, like the Gore Wear Thermo Base Layer, are actually designed for moderate fall temperatures.
You’re going to see two categories of materials used in cycling base layers.
Man-made materials, like polypropylene and polyester, are going to be the most common. They’re cheap to make and quite effective when it comes to the performance of these layers.
The Castelli Prosecco Tech Base Layer, for example, is made of 100% polyester, which is a material that can keep you nice and warm. Because of that material, it’s more affordable than similar products.
One downside of polyester and other synthetic materials is that it can start to smell, especially after sweaty rides. That means more washes, which could wear down the layer over time.
Natural materials, like Merino wool, is more premium in terms of price, but comes with a lot of advantages.
First, it’s naturally antibacterial, which means you won’t have to wash it as much. As a result, it should hold up longer.
Because Merino wool is a natural material, companies can’t engineer more hollow channels in the fibers, which can help when it comes to wicking away moisture. So, while the material is decent at wicking away moisture, it’s certainly not perfect.
The Pearl Izumi Merino Base Layer is made up of mostly Merino wool, but also is blended with synthetic material to help with moisture management.
Typically, thinner base layers are designed for warmer temperatures and thicker for colder temperatures.
But when it comes to fabric thickness, the feature to focus on is thickness on certain areas of the base layer.
The Castelli Prosecco Tech Base Layer, which is designed for winter weather, uses thinner fabric where bib straps overlap. Of course, that’s assuming you’re wearing a jersey or other piece of cycling gear over the layer. If so, those overlapping areas won’t get too hot.
The Gore Wear Base Layer Thermo Long Sleeve layer uses the Gore Windstopper Tech, which makes the fabric a little thicker, but helps cut down on wind and aid in wicking away moisture.